Public health officials warn that we’re now faced with a different kind of tobacco hazard when it comes to U.S. teens: e-cigarettes.
Although traditional cigarette smoking among middle school and high school students has fallen to record lows, use of e-cigarettes — where a nicotine-based liquid is vaporized and inhaled through an electronic cigarette — tripled from 2013 to 2014, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“What’s most surprising is how incredibly rapid the use of products other than cigarettes has increased,” CDC director Tom Frieden told The Washington Post. He added that some e-cigarette smokers would move on to traditional cigarettes. “It is subjecting another generation of our children to an addictive substance.”
The CDC said that nicotine, in whatever form, is dangerous, especially to kids.
“Nicotine exposure during adolescence, a critical window for brain development, might have lasting adverse consequences for brain development, causes addiction, and might lead to sustained tobacco use,” the CDC said.
The new teen tobacco numbers come from the CDC’s National Youth Tobacco Survey, which found that e-cigarette use among middle school students increased from 1.1 percent in 2013 to 3.9 percent in 2014. In high school students, e-cigarette use jumped from 4.5 percent in 2013 to 13.4 percent. That amounts to nearly 2.5 million teens using e-cigs.
Over the same period, cigarette smoking dropped from 12.7 percent to 9.2 percent among teens.
Michael Siegel, a professor and tobacco control specialist at Boston University’s School of Public Health, said minors should not have access to tobacco of any sort. Still, he told the Post:
“The CDC should really be jumping for joy at the fact that smoking rates are declining. This is a huge success. Instead, they are using this as another opportunity to demonize e-cigarettes.”
Siegel added that e-cigarettes may actually be dissuading teens from smoking conventional cigarettes, rather than being a gateway for cigarette smoking.
“That’s a good thing,” Siegel added.
My parents have smoked cigarettes my entire life. Most of my aunts and uncles smoke as well. Of the five children in my family, my sister and I are the only two who are, and have always been, tobacco-free.
It’s shocking to think that tobacco use could increase in kids again because of e-cigarettes.
Do you agree with Siegel that this product may be diverting teens from traditional cigarettes? Share your comments below or on our Facebook page. And share this story with your network. We all know someone who has a teen who might be considering this choice.